Why We Refuse To Be Vulnerable, And Why We Should.

Lately I found myself thinking a lot about life, in general. But the one thing that really bugs me is the topic of VULNERABILITY. What is it, and why does it cripple some of us? Well, according to the  dictionary, being vulnerable means:

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 3.49.58 PM

But trust me, it’s so much more than that.

I did some reading over the past week, and came across this short verse by C.S. Lewis.


It made me shudder. But I realised, I’m not the only one.

When we were young and first started discovering a four letter word, no one told us it would hurt that much. Then heart break after heart break, we realise that if we love, we’re putting ourselves out there, like a sitting duck, leaving our hearts wide open to attacks.

Being vulnerable in a relationship means you’re basically handing your partner your heart, giving them a chance to hurt you and break you. Being vulnerable means it’s very likely that you will get hurt, and the more we put ourselves out there, the more we will hurt. As we grow older, we grow more and more aware of this vulnerability, and some of us decide to stop being vulnerable altogether. And refusing to be vulnerable means, refusing to feel, and love.

But, why?

Because stereotypically, being vulnerable means being weak. Being vulnerable means giving the other person control over you, and no one wants to appear weak, no one wants to lose. We all want to be strong, or so we want to appear. We have been vulnerable before, and we got hurt, and it really sucked, so why would we want to be vulnerable when we know hurt is waiting around the corner? Ironically, one person’s vulnerability can be interpreted as courage by another.

Oddly, the surmon during mass yesterday was also hovering around the subject of being afraid in life, being afraid to show who we are, and I felt like I needed to get more familiar with this supposed road block, this fear. After all, it could well be the answer as to why I’m stuck. This morning that chain of thought was continued when I sighted this posting on Facebook by my cousin.

Connect by Taking the Initiative by Rick Warren

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV)
And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. (Genesis 3:10 KJV)

When Adam and Eve sinned and God came looking for Adam, Adam said, “I was afraid and I hid.” (Genesis 3:10 ESV) This fear is as old as mankind. We hide our true selves. We don’t let people know what we’re really like. Why? Because we think, “If I tell you who I am and you don’t like me, I’m have no alternative.” So we wear masks and we pretend.

Fear does three terrible things to relationships:

Our fears make us defensive. We’re afraid to reveal ourselves. When people point out weaknesses we retaliate and defend ourselves.
Our fears keep us distant. We don’t let people get close to us. We want to withdraw and hide our emotions. We don’t want to be open and honest.
Our fears make us demanding. The more insecure we are the more we try to control or dominate things. We try to have the last word in a relationship. It’s always a symptom of fear and insecurity.

Where do you get the courage for taking the first step in connecting with someone? You get it from God’s Spirit in your life: “For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people but to be wise and strong [courageous] and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7 LB).

So the starting point in connecting with anybody is to pause and pray and say,

“God, give me the courage to take the first step.”

The first step, is also the biggest step, the scariest, and the most intimidating.

I’ve been in situation after situation, where I have had the solution right in my hand, and yet, I feel as if, in that moment, I am paralysed; not physically, but my mind just freezes. Why didn’t I do it? Why couldn’t I say it? Why did I do that? Why am I so afraid?

In some of my (past) relationships, I came out feeling like I did more than I should have, that I wasn’t appreciated. I walk out feeling I loved more than I was loved. I started to lose faith in love, really, and it got harder and harder to find someone who was worth the pain. When things don’t work out, we tend to blame ourselves, maybe we’re not good enough, maybe we just can’t get it right, and we start to build walls around us. At some point, I stopped myself from feeling entirely, was I happy? Well, no, not really, I felt empty, but I knew no one could hurt me that way. And for awhile, it was okay.

But we can’t live that way forever, can we? Like it or not, we need to be vulnerable. We are nothing without love, and to love, is to be vulnerable. I wish they didn’t come interlocked, but they do, and there’s nothing we can do to cancel one or the other out of the equation, they come together.

But how? How do you decide you’re ready to open your heart to hurt again? How do you make that first big move?

I watched this video where Brené Brown speaks about the Power of Vulnerability. I’ve watched it again and again, and it’s like a sudden realisation, over and over again.

According to Brené, in her book “Daring Greatly” she explains that there are 3 MYTHS surrounding vulnerability. If you’d like to read about these myths in details, click here. I’m trying not to make this longer than it needs to be.

  1. Vulnerability is weakness.

  2. Some of us don’t experience vulnerability.

  3. Vulnerability means spilling your secrets.

If that’s not true about vulnerability, then what is?

One thing I know for sure now, is that refusing to be vulnerable means refusing to love, and refusing to love is refusing to be happy. We all want to be happy, we all want to be loved. But the fear of getting hurt by loving really cripples us a lot more than we admit to. We try to look for assurance, we want to know that the person we are interested in likes/loves us more than we love them, and yet, they are very likely looking for the same too. I could go on and on about how refusing vulnerability can completely mess up your life, but, you get the drift right?

We push people away because we lack confidence in ourselves, because we refuse to trust that not being 100% perfect is actually okay, and that to them, imperfect IS perfect. It’s not them, it’s us. We refuse to admit we need help when we really need help because people might think we’re weak, or because we’re afraid they’ll judge us. The result? Our non-vulnerability instead makes us appear as cold, aloof and emotionless persons, of course there is much truth in that, because in a bid to avoid pain, we just refuse to feel.

If only we realised sooner, what our non-vulnerability is doing to us, but what’s done is done. So what does it become?

I call it self-sabotage.

So the answer here clearly is, to just forget everything bad you know about being vulnerable, and just be, vulnerable. Stand up and charge forward, regardless of what lies ahead. Be vulnerable by all means, because we were made not to be afraid, but to be courageous. After all, for as long as we refuse to be vulnerable, we’re practically blocking all possible happiness out of our lives, right? Harsh, but apparently true. But pin-pointing a problem is the easy part, how do you get about to solving it? How do you untangle the knots? Where do you start? How do you stop living in fear? How do you stop hurting? How do you become vulnerable?

I wish I could have all the answers at the tip of my fingers, but I guess that’s one of life’s challenges, to figure them out along the way. Does admitting to having serious issues with being vulnerable unlock any answers? I don’t know yet. But I want to believe that when I have the answer, I’ll have the guts to make the first move.

Because to love, we need to be vulnerable; and if we stick to not wanting to experience the pain that comes with it, I guess life would be a big waste of time.

Perhaps being vulnerable might not work out to be such a bad thing, after all, it takes courage to make vulnerability a choice; and courage can overcome a lot.

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